Why You Should Stop the Follow/Unfollow Instagram Trick Immediately

Anna Komok

Anna is the Head of Marketing and PR at HypeAuditor, the most accurate and in-depth Instagram and YouTube analytics tool on the market. She is passionate about influencer marketing and Instagram analytics.

Hundreds of articles about Instagram growth recommend using the follow/unfollow Instagram trick. They claim that this method can easily get you about 50-100+ new followers a day, but they are silent about the harm that this method can cause.

What is Mass Following and How Does the Follow/Unfollow Instagram Trick Work?

The Follow/Unfollow trick, or mass following, is commonly used by micro and middle influencers and shops to find new followers and clients. It has very simple mechanics:

  • An influencer’s account follows you, or likes, or posts a comment on Instagram
  • You get a notification and follow them back
  • They unfollow you after a couple of days.

Instagrammers use special tools and apps for automatic Follow/Unfollow that starts following other users based on the filter criteria.

They can base it on location (geotags) or hashtags, and search for users following specific accounts and etc.

According to HypeAuditor’s internal research, up to 28% of influencers with less than 100K followers used the follow/unfollow trick to grow their number of followers.

Percentage of influencers who used Follow/Unfollow by followers number

Why do people follow and unfollow on Instagram

Instagram Follow Unfollow was a common way to gain new followers. It was very cheap and effective, but things have changed. Every year Instagram tightens its action limits and restricts its policy regarding automatic services.

Why you should stop using the follow unfollow Instagram trick immediately

It is a direct violation of Instagram’s Terms and Conditions and Community Guidelines

The risk you take with automation is that it is against Instagram’s Terms of Service as stated here:

You must not create accounts with the Service through unauthorized means, including but not limited to, by using an automated device, script, bot, spider, crawler or scraper.

And Community Guidelines:

Help us stay spam-free by not artificially collecting likes, followers, or shares, posting repetitive comments or content, or repeatedly contacting people for commercial purposes without their consent.

Overstepping these terms may result in deleted content, disabled accounts, or other restrictions. When detected the first time, your account will usually be temporarily blocked, but in some cases, you may get a permanent ban.

Your credibility is at risk

Mass follow on Instagram is spam in the worst sense, and Instagrammers who use this trick manipulate users’ attention.

Follow and Unfollow Instagram practice is very annoying for people who are using Instagram to connect and share. When an influencer follows you, engages with you, and then in several days or a week later unfollows you, this is irritating.

Want to detect if someone using follow/unfollow on Instagram? Check their account at HypeAuditor

Besides, the follow/unfollow trick is easy to expose. Just check out the following graph on HypeAuditor, if you see these kinds of spikes that means that this influencer is using the mass following to gain new followers.

The example of Followings graph on HypeAuditor if an influencer uses automation for follow/unfollow

Follow Unfollow on Instagram doesn’t work anymore

The follow/unfollow method is becoming an epidemic on Instagram as users are increasingly doing it. These days, over 50% of the new followers that an account gets will unfollow them automatically a day or a week later. This tactic becomes ineffective and simply a massive annoyance.

Using the follow/unfollow Instagram trick you can grow your Instagram followers, but you’re definitely not growing your engaged audience. A lot of the followers you’ve gained with this method won’t engage in your content if they were brought here by manipulation. And would you want ghost followers who won’t respond to any of your posts?

According to our internal research, accounts who practice follow/unfollow have in average 23.77% of followers who don’t see their posts. Just for comparison: accounts who don’t use mass following have only 12.25% of ghost followers.

The more passive users you have, the increasingly lower reach you have. Instagram tends to show people posts that are liked and commented more than the others. If most of your audience is not engaged, the Instagram algorithm realizes you’re not interesting anymore, and so it drops your reach.

Most Instagram users and even influencers themselves are negative about mass following.

“Follow/unfollow isn’t a successful strategy for growing your audience heading into 2019. Users now recognize when this is happening and often feel annoyed if they follow someone & realize they’ve been unfollowed. Instagram has also caught on and there is a risk of being penalized (not having your content shown to your audience) for suspicious activity when using a follow/unfollow method.” said Sara Mils @saraontheinternet, a popular blogger from Loss Angeles.

UPDATE: Since the 5th of June 2019, Instagram began to massively action block accounts that use third-party apps for automatic following and unfollowing.

This unannounced Instagram update has rapidly changed the whole industry of Instagram automation. Experts say that Instagram could have changed their limits for actions from one IP. This made follow/unfollow activity more expensive and less effective. According to our research, the number of influencers who use follow/unfollow has declined by almost 84 percent.  

Instagram has started its war with inauthentic activity and their first steps are very promising. They’ve already changed the way of automation, and we are waiting for further actions in 2020.

How to Detect Influencers who use Follow/Unfollow?

It’s not difficult to spot accounts that are using the follow/unfollow method on Instagram. The main red flag – their follower count is much higher than their following count and usually starts from 1500 followings and over. And, as we said before, you can check their accounts on HypeAuditor for spikes in the followings graph.

How to protect your account from mass followers?

Users who follow you via a tool for an automatic follow/unfollow are not engaged in your content. A bunch of mass followers among your audience affects your engagement rate, audience quality and reach.

There are two types of users who use this method:

  1. Bots. People pay for bots to auto-comment, like or follow others with the intention of getting as many followers as they can.
  2. People who want to grow their Instagram account fast.

To protect your Instagram account from these low-quality users use these tips:

1. Be careful with hashtags

As we said earlier, accounts that use the mass following tune the application on the filter criteria and the most popular filter is hashtags.

For instance, influencers who post about Beauty and Fashion would use popular hashtags in this niche: #beauty #fashion #style and so on. Each of these hashtags has over a million posts on Instagram and hundreds of thousands of accounts who use them. That’s why mass followers use them extensively.

If you want to protect your account from users who practice follow/unfollow, use narrow hashtags in your niche.

People don’t search for new posts or interesting accounts under broad hashtags like #sun, #happy, #summer and so on. They use more specific tags like #styleideas, #bedroomdesign,  #gardeningtips.

2. Focus on the quality, not the quantity of followers

Сonstantly clean your followers. If your follower count is less than 10,000 you can do it manually. Simply check new followers, if they have above 1500 followings and their content is not relevant to you, just block them.

To check your progress, look at Audience Type section on the HypeAuditor report. The number of mass followers should decrease.

The bottom line is that all artificial methods of Instagram growth are damaging your credibility, reputation and reach. The Follow/Unfollow method is not good in the long run and while today it brings you some new followers, tomorrow it can lead away from a contract with a well-known brand.

    1 Comment

  1. Michael June 16, 2021 at 7:31 pm

    Hey, my instagram recently got hacked; though I did manage to retrieve all my info I had no followers or following. So I started doing follow unfollow. My question is, now that I see that there are consequences, will my account ever be the same again? If I wait a long time and don’t do it anymore will instagram go back to normal? Thanks

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